With all its intricacies, history seems to have been the mortar for every brick and stone that has built Shimla. As the Summer Capital of the British in India, Shimla was the country’s focus for the better part of every year and now, is the state capital of Himachal Pradesh. The town of Shimla rose in the nineteenth century when the Gurkha Wars came to an end in 1815-16 and the victorious British decided to retain certain pockets as military outposts and sanitaria. In 1822 the most rigorous of dandies and the greatest of sticklers for form Captain Charles Pratt Kennedy, Political Agent to the Hill States directed that a house be built for him at the village whose name is variously reported as Sheyamalaya Shumlah, Shimlu and Shemlah. Kennedy House led the vanguard of the hundred-odd houses that were to scatter themselves by 1841 over every level or gently inclining space. Lured by the climate and terrain scores of European invalids began moving to the station and the only stipulation of the local chief who owned the land was that no tree be cut or cattle slaughtered.
In 1864 the Viceroy, John Lawrence anointed Shimla – then spelt Shimla, as the summer capital of British India. With Lawrence came the Viceroy Council, the Imperial Secretariat, representatives of the Indian princes and foreign envoys. As the town grew to become the workshop of the Empire, an awed visitor observed, every pigeonhole cradled an embryo of a war or death. Despite the fact that up to the time of Indian independence in 1947, Shimla officially remained only the summer capital, yet the Government spent more time in these hills than at the actual capital Calcutta and later New Delhi. As the bearer of the Vice regal scepter this tiny pocket became the cynosure of British Empire. Imperial grandeur, and all the panoply and trappings of power came along for the ride. And there was a popular local saying that went, “You cannot sleep the nights in Shimla for the sound of grinding axes”. A social whirl of parties, gymkhanas, balls, fancy fairs and affaires du Coeur ensured that a heady mixture of scandal and intrigue constantly wafted through the town.
Quite inevitably the freedom movement had a close connection with Shimla. Ornithologist and former Civil Servant, Allan Octavian Hume created the Indian National Congress which spearheaded the struggle while living in the town. Stalwarts like Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and Maulana Azad regularly visited Shimla. Major events that took place in the town were the Shimla Conference in 1942, the deliberations of the Cabinet on and finally the decision to partition India.
And while the British Empire may have ceased to exist, its echoes linger on in the architecture and ambience of this hill resort. The elements of nostalgia may be strong but Shimla also has a youthful vigor in its pace. Its easy accessibility and several other attractions have made it one of India’s most popular hill resorts. There are many unforgettable walks, day-excursions by the dozen, a variety of convenient shopping and entertainment museums, and ice-skating in winter. Shimla is the base or the unwinding point for numerous exhilarating routes to the state interior.
Today the town is distinctive for its variety of architecture. It has one of the rare surviving urban forests, made all the more unique, for its species are temperate to alpine ones in what is otherwise a tropical zone. And then Shimla’s famous Mall offers one of the longest stretches of pedestrian shopping in the world.
Language: Hindi. Also English, Punjabi and Pahari are understood and spoken by the people engaged in tourism trade.
Religion : Mostly Hindu. Also Sikh, Muslim and Christian.
Medical Facilities : Good.
Telecommunications : Worldwide links by the net, telephone and fax, code: 0177.
Temperature: Maximum temperature is 35oC and minimum is – 2oC.
Clothing: Cottons in summer and light to heavy woollen in winter.
Where to stay: Shimla has accommodation to suit most types of budgets and tastes. However other towns near Shimla mostly have limited options including HPTDC guest houses which provide a comfortable stay at reasonable prices. Details are available from local tourist offices
Sufficient accommodation is available in Hotels of HPTDC.
By Road: Broad well surfaced NH22 connects to Kalka, Chandigarh, Delhi, etc.
By Rail: Broad gauge track upto Kalka connecting to Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. Narrow Gauge from Kalka to Shimla Toy Train (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
By Air: Daily Flights from Delhi. Airport at Jubbarhatti 23 kilometers from the city. The other nearby airports Such as Chandigarh and delhi airport can be accessed easily. Heli taxi service from Chandigarh to Shimla available twice a week.
How To Get Around: Local buses operate regularly. Taxis are also available.
|Places to visit||Km|
|Indian Institute of Advanced Study||4|
|Jakhoo Temple||2.5 Km via Ridge and 6 Km via Circular Road.|
- Take a leisurely evening stroll down the Mall Road.
- Enjoy picnics at The Glen and Craignano.
- Get on the Kalka-Shimla Railway and savour the scenic beauty on the way.
- Watch rain-fed Chadwick Falls.
- Sight-see Shimla’s landmarks, the Neo-Gothic structure of Christ Church, the new Tudor library building at The Ridge and Viceregal lodge.
- Enjoy the view and stay from Hotel Peach blossom at Fagu.
- Play golf at Naldehra.
- Museum: State Museum, Shimla Heritage Museum, Army Heritage Museum, Baba Bhalku Railway Museum.
- Enjoy jakho rope-way or hike to Jakho Hill.
- Ice skating (In Winter) & Roller Skating (Lakkar Bazar).
A cliche if you will – but often laced with snow – the year opens with a heady cocktail. Thousands of revelers head to celebrate the new year in Shimla, Chail (Solan), Manali (Kullu), Dharamshala and Dalhousie (Chamba).
Shimla Summer Festival
Every year in the month of May/June international Shimla summer festival is organised by district adminstration for the attraction of the tourists. Cultural activities are the major attractions. A wide spectrum of national talent, a variety of programmes and a splendid setting make Shimla’s Summer Festival – a memorable event.
Red Cross Fair
Shimla also hosts the Red Cross Fair, sport tournaments, flower shows, photographs and posters exhibition and a fashion show based on folk costumes.
Lavi fair of Rampur is the most important fair of Shimla district. the commercial fair held on 25 of Kartika (November). The woollen goods, dry fruits and medicinal herbs are purchased by the traders of plain. It is a very old fair and entirely related to sale and purchase of goods. “Natti” dance and cultural shows are the main attractions.
The fair is held every year at Sihpur below Mashobra on the first of Jaishta (May) in honour of SIP devta. Thousand of people of surrounding areas participate in the fair. Archery game is played besides several. Cultural programs, variety shows, ‘Karyala’ programs of the jugglers and magician provide additional entertainment.
|Tourist Information Centre, Shimla||0177-2654589, 2832498|
|Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Shimla||0177-2625924, 2625864, 2625511|
|HPTDC’s Marketing Office, Shimla||0177-2652561/2658302|
This is the hub of Shimla’s social life. Lined by shops and restaurants this pedestrian thoroughfare loosely resembles an English Home County’s marketplace. The Gaiety Theatre, which is a reproduction of an old British theatre is a center of cultural activities. A passenger lift operated by HPTDC can be taken from the Cart Road to The Mall. Lakkar Bazaar adjacent to the Ridge is popular for its wood crafts and souvenirs.
The large open space in the heart of town presents an excellent view of the mountain ranges.
Standing tall through the tough rapids of time, the Christ Church is one of the most important buildings of Shimla. It tells the story of a part of the town’s rich history – and its pews mark the seats of the Viceroy, the Commander-in-Chief and the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, while the fascinating memorial tablets in brass and marble sound a roll call for some who shaped what was the British Empire.
Temples, Gurudwara’s & Monasteries
The Temple of Kali Bari is near the Mall and was founded by Ram Charan Bramachari, a Bengali Brahmin.This temple is one of the oldest in Shimla. Held in high veneration by the town’s Hindu community it is dedicated to the goddess Kali. While a black marble image occupies the central position in the sanctum, it is flanked by vermillion daubed stone carvings which are regarded to be images that were unearthed at the temple’s original site on the slopes of Jakhu.
Jakhu Hill is Shimla’s highest point and offers a spectacular view of the town, hills and distant mountain ranges. The peak has a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman.
The Sankat Mochan Temple is another Temple dedicated to Hanuman and lies just short of Shimla by the Kalka-Shimla highway.
The Kamna Devi temple lies above Boileauganj and offers good views of the town, Shimla’s air field and the mountain ranges.
The hill of Tara Devi (12 km by vehicular road) is crowned by a temple of the same name. Vehicular access to the shrine is along a road that bifurcates at Shoghi. The views are spectacular.
Some other temples are located in the Lower Bazaar, in the Middle Bazaar and at Boileauganj.
Buddhist monasteries are at Kasumpti (Nyingm-pa-sect) and at Sanjauli (Geluk-pa-sect).
Founded in 1885, the main Gurudwara and the hall of the Singh Sabha is near the local bus stand on the cart road.
Walks and Hikes
The area around the Shimla heritage museum offers both architecture and nature. You may move further towards the temple and sighting point of Kamna Devi and the more adventurous can trek in the area around Jutogh, Tutu and Ghanahatti. In the same direction, are the woods of the Conservation Zone, beyond Summer Hill and the University campus. Potter’s Hill and its eco-camp lie within the Conservation Zone and rain-fed Chadwick Falls also lies in this direction.The Glen is a long narrow valley through which a stream flows. It is rather attractive after the pumping station that lies in the beginning.
The walk to the temples of Tara Devi and Sankat Mochan can be linked to a short train ride to Tara Devi. The hill of Jakhu that towers over the town can be dovetailed with a promenade over the Mall.A walk towards Chotta (small) Shimla could include a look at the exterior of the Tudor framed ‘Raj Bhavan’ -once ‘Barnes Court’- it now serves as the State Governor’s residence.m Relatively unexplored, the Bharari Spur has several walks that can be done in a few hours or carried over the day. One of Shimla’s best-kept secrets seems to be the little village of Bihargaon that lies down its southern slopes. This is approached from the cemetery below St. Edward’s School or from Tuttikandi. Thick woods, an open glade – and a splendid example of local architecture in the temple of Dhanu Devta make this an unusual excursion.
Shimla’s Suburbs & Day Excursions
The glade of Sipur lies below the suburb of Mashobra and there are a beautiful wood and grey-slate temple on this idyllic spot. A somewhat tougher trek can be continued to the Shali peak which is at 3000 m and the highest peak in the area.
Craignano near Mashobra was the suburban residence of the celebrated Italian confectioner and photographer, the Chevalier Peliti.
The Fruit Research Station is close to Craignano and has some unusual tree varieties.
If you are looking for something a little less commonplace, then head up to the Retreat in Charabra and walk down to the Mashobra bazaar, or take a long drive along the Bekhalty road through thick woods.
Under a thicket of deodar trees, Naldehra has the 18 hole, par 68 golf course that was laid out by the British Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. He was so enchanted by the spot that he often camped here for days on end and communicated with Viceregal Lodge at Shimla by means of a heliograph and even named a daughter after the spot.Short of Mashobra is the fork of Hindustan Tibet Road. This turn-off also lies at the head of the path to the Catchment Area. It is from the wash collected in these dense woods that Shimla gets a part of its water supply. Down in The Valley lies the old rest house at Seog. (Permission to enter is given by the Waterworks Engineer, Shimla Municipal Corporation, Shimla, or by the Chief Engineer, Department of Irrigation and Public Health, Shimla.)
Kufri is a destination in its own right, is 16 km from Shimla and has long been famous for its ski slopes and fine views. The Himalayan Nature Park is also at Kufri and the area has a fair amount of options for family entertainment.
(22km from Shimla) is a tiny village that rests astride a mountain saddle along the Hindustan Tibet Road. The location gives it a rare range of views that encompass both the northern and southern valleys as well as the snowclad peaks of the Greater Himalaya. In the open patches, the valleys hold hamlets, orchards and neatly terraced fields. Himachal Tourism’s hotel ‘Apple Blossom’ is available at Fagu.
Lies 64 km from Shimla and has a choice of ski runs, thick woods and superb views. Hatu temple is an attraction for tourist at Narkanda. The peak of Hatu rises over this small town and is covered with thick woods. The views from the top are quite amazing. Himachal Tourism’s hotel ‘The Hatu’ is available at Narkanda.Near Narkanda lies Himachal’s apple growing heartland and the settlement of Thanedhar and Kotgarh. It was in this belt that the Quaker, Samuel Evans Stokes introduced the American varieties of apple that went on to transform the economy of the area and today, make this a delightful area to visit.
Has an old palace, the State Police Training Centre and the Ashwani stream. A hike trail through the villages of Mehli, Goshani and Chakra leads from Shimla’s Kasumpti locality to Junga.
Was the seat of the erstwhile princely state of the same name and lies just off the highway that leads from Shimla to Bilaspur, Mandi and Kullu. The remains of its thick woods of oak and deodar were popular hunting grounds of the British viceroys.
The Valley of Pabbar is accessed from Theog on the Hindustan Tibet Road (and Rohru 115 km from Shimla) is its main town. The valley is also a good location for trout fishing, sightseeing and trekking in the area. Jubbal (25 km short of Rohru) is famous for its palace which is an interesting mix of European and local elements and the classical temples of Hatkoti (109 km from Shimla) is another major attraction.
Himachal Tourism’s hotel ‘The Chanshal’ is available at Rohru and ‘The Giriganga Resort’ at Kharapathar.
(175km) is steeped in legend, hill architecture and remarkable natural beauty. Far below in the valley tumbles the river Sutlej. Across lie the snow-covered Shrikhand peaks and a host of other mountains that divide the Sutlej and Beas valleys. This is an area closely connected with the epic Mahabharata and the exile of the Pandavas. Sarahan itself is surrounded by fields and orchards, and small villages with remarkable examples of local architecture. Sarahan is revered as one of the fifty-one Shaktipeeths and the temple of Bhimakali is a resplendent example of indigenous building skills. For several centuries this was also the capital of the former princely state of Bushair.
Himachal Tourism’s hotel The Srikhand & cottage is available at Sarahan.
(130km) is built on the banks of the river Sutlej and was the seat of the former princely state of Bushair. It was a major entry point along the old trade routes. Rampur benefitted from a wide range of economic and cultural exchanges. Today Rampur is a bustling town that retains a substantial measure of its past and is still a melting pot of the cultures of the region and has its historical palaces and temples. An added measure of its current importance is the proximity to the Nathpa Jhakri and Rampur Hydel Projects. Near Rampur are the temple villages of Nirmand, Nirath and Duttnagar.
Himachal Tourism’s hotel Bushehar Regency is available at Rampur.